WHITE AND OFF-WHITE 217
However, fortunately for the Empire, they are by no
typical of the British in India. To use a phrase which they would
probably use themselves, the average British men and women are
a "pretty decent lot,* particularly those who live in remote dis-
tricts, far from the cities — though they themselves would pro-
bably agree that they are not brilliantly exciting. It is difficult to
keep one's sparkle at a temperature of 100 in the shade, on &
small salary, with no intellectual companionship but one's house-
boy, with no news except a few copies of Life9 four months old
and partially eaten by ants... above all, with no thanks, either
from the Indians or one's fellow-countrymen.
The one quality that is common to all of them is courage.
Whatever else you may deny to this tiny handful of men and
i /omen who are scattered over the country like a pinch of alien
dust ««n a gigantic desert, you must grant them courage. You
must grant it to the young policeman, yesterday a schoolboy,
bewildered by the fierce religious hatreds of a raob which he must
try to concrol almost alone, a mob of thousands on whom he must
^nob fire except in extremity — and * extremity" does not mean when.
his face is bloody with broken glass. You must grant it to the little
garrisons of the North- West Frontier, living in the perpetual
shadow of the sniper, the human sport of the men who kill, quite
literally, for fun, since that is the tribesman's way. Forty years
ago Kipling flashed his searchlight on the life and death of those
youths who guard the northern gateway :
A scrimmage in a border station,
A canter down some dark defile. . .
Two thousand pounds of education
Drops to a ten-rupee jezaiL
Those lines are as true to-day as when they were first written.
Courage you must grant to the judges, steering a straight furrow-
through a jungle of falsehood, trickery, and vituperation ; to the
doctors, sticking to their principles in an enervating atmosphere
of superstition and hostility ; to the business men, fighting a cease-
*Jess battle against rivals to whom the most elementary principles
of business integrity are alien and incomprehensible.
Above all, you *nvst grant it to the women. Apart from the